Where We Be
Start your visit at Tiradentes Plaza, more or
less at the center of this sprawling hill town
Ouro Preto, Brazil
Colonial towns like Ouro Preto offer the chance
to see the quieter side of Brazil. Huge cities
like Sao Paulo, 12 million
strong, may be the
beating heart of modern Brazil, but that doesn't
necessarily make them fun to visit. Ouro Preto
is more our speed, with its roots solidly in the
18th century gold rush. Back then it was simply
known as Vila Rica
(Rich Village), and believe it
or not
it was the largest city in Brazil at the time
with over 100,000 souls. Now it feels quaint  
and welcoming
with its cobblestone streets,
baroque churches
, and colonial architecture.

T
he town is highly photogenic and walkable,
but
come prepared for a workout because the
streets are steep. This is gold rush country,
rugged and hilly, and the town sprawls over
several hills and valleys. You won't find any
beaches
here: this is an inland town some six
hours northwest of Rio
, but you'll be glad you
came anyway for a taste of the other Brazil.
This lovely building houses the Conspirators Museum (Museu da Inconfidencia), also known as the Museum of
Betrayal. It tells of the late 1700's conspirators like Tiradentes who defied royal power, calling for independence.
The buildings and cobblestone streets fronting
the main plaza have loads of colonial charm
View looking north from the courtyard of
the Igreja do Carmo on a misty morning
View looking west from Igreja do Carmo. Ouro Preto has too many churches to
visit all of them, but they're certainly wonderful to see perched on their hilltops.
We recommend limiting your church visits to about three to avoid "church fatigue."
One of the most important in town is the
Sao Francisco de Assis, considered a
rococo masterpiece of the famous Brazilian architect and sculptor
Aleijadinho.
Another good option is Igreja Nossa Senhora do Pilar. Brazil's second
most
opulent church, it's decorated with 434 kg of gold and silver.
Looking north from the Conspirators Museum you can see the Museum of Mineralogy (the
white builidng in back). This exceptional museum has one of the best collections of minerals
we've seen -- most gathered right here in Ouro Preto and surrounding towns in Minas Gerais.
For a terrific view of the entire town, follow Rue Quintiliano (north of
the main plaza)
uphill for ten minutes until you reach this overlook
From the overlook you can see just how picturesque
the town is with its red tiled roofs and numerous churches
The Igreja do Ifigenia is a mid-18th century church that was financed and built
by the slave community. It's said that slaves contributed to the church by washing
their gold-flaked hair in baptismal fonts or smuggling gold powder under fingernails.
We walked a long way east before reaching this lovely
overlook of the Igreja do Efigenia, Princess of Nubia
Some hillsides in Ouro Preto
are literally covered with houses
Some streets are so steep that huge stoops stand in front of each entryway
door. The "sidewalks" are unwalkable so you have to walk on the street.
The Igreja Nossa Senhora do Carmo is right off Plaza Tiradentes.
Built on a hill, it offers terrific views of the surrounding town.
We spent three days in Ouro Preto and thought that was the perfect
amount of time to see all the sights and still have time to just wander
View from the balcony of the Counting House
(Casa dos Contos) in the heart of the city
The local neighborhood is terrific for exploring --
just pick a street at random and start walking
This sculpture from yet another church is by Aleijadinho --
a name you'll come to know well by the end of your visit
We were amazed to find beautiful stone
like this being used on unassuming sidewalks
We stayed at Pousada Classica on steep Bobadela Street,
only 100 feet or so from Plaza Tiradentes (behind us)
Be sure not to miss the surprisingly enjoyable Oratory Museum next to Igreja do Carmo. It
showcases home altars and portable shrines dating back to the 17th century. [Not my photos]
The town is chock-full of photogenic views, but you have
to w
ork for them, climbing up and down the steep streets
The Counting House was both the former seat of the tax collector --
and the former prison of the inconfidentes (conspirators)